Wikileaks’s publication of State Department diplomatic cables further shows how attentive China’s rulers are to their image at home and abroad. As noted in the New York Times, a May 2009 cable reported that Li Changchun, a Politburo member in charge of Chinese media relations and propaganda, “was taken aback to discover that he could conduct Chinese-language searches on Google’s main international Web site.” According to the cable, Li typed his name into the search engine and found “results critical of him.”
Another cable reported that Chinese officials are increasingly confident of their ability to control information on the Internet:
Yet despite the hints of paranoia that appear in some cables, there are also clear signs that Chinese leaders do not consider the Internet an unstoppable force for openness and democracy, as some Americans believe.
In fact, this spring, around the time of the Google pullout, China’s State Council Information Office delivered a triumphant report to the leadership on its work to regulate traffic online, according to a crucial Chinese contact cited by the State Department in a cable in early 2010, when contacted directly by The Times.
The message delivered by the office, the person said, was that “in the past, a lot of officials worried that the Web could not be controlled.”
“But through the Google incident and other increased controls and surveillance, like real-name registration, they reached a conclusion: the Web is fundamentally controllable,” the person said.
I am interested to see how the Internet works in China.